Chris Rattue lists his weekend stars from the world of sport.

The Maria Sharapova critics who are standing firm

Tennis superstar Sharapova is Russia-born and America-raised. Stamina-increasing meldonium is big among athletes from the former, and clever PR is a staple for any high profile crisis in the latter.

These two elements collided when Sharapova tried to downplay her culpability over a positive drug test in a confessional-style press conference last week, and over the weekend a journalist from Fox News tried to turn the blame on to the rule makers.

Twisted defences were always going to be put forward, and there are many potential angles to any story like this. But the basic fact remains - she has tested positive to a drug that was on the banned list. And that, in many ways, is all that matters.


Thousands of athletes take extraordinary precautions to ensure they don't get illegal substances into their bodies. Making sure you are clean isn't down the list of things to do, alongside picking up the dry cleaning.

It is a precise, top-priority business with major consequences when you get it wrong. (Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was banned for eight months after skipping a test, even though he submitted to it only 24 hours later than scheduled.)

The only out for any of these M-users like Sharapova - the latest offenders include a Russian rugby sevens couple - would be a worldwide amnesty for some extraordinary reason. There's only one way to run a sports drug testing regime and that involves athlete responsibility.

If Sharapova wanted to use a performance enhancing drug when it was legal, who are we to judge? But if that translates into a positive test after it is outlawed, more fool her. She used a vague, laughable medical excuse for using meldonium for 10 years, a huge black mark against someone who was pretending to confess all. There will be plenty of twists and turns to go no doubt, tempting us to leave the straight and narrow.

Ben Sigmund

New Zealand's working class football hero returned to the Phoenix with immediate effect, as the Wellington battlers upset Sydney across the ditch. The 34-year-old defender, who has hardly played in the past four months, was back to steady the ship. The former All White is about as refined as a sledgehammer, but every football side needs his sort of character. "I can probably bring a little bit of communication and determination," he said during the week. Sigmund is a handful of games short of retirement, and he deserves to go out on a better note than the Phoenix have played this season.

The Sunwolves

Almost, should of, beat the Cheetahs in a "home" game in Singapore. There are horrible drubbings ahead for the new Japanese Super Rugby side who have been organised like a social footy team on the drink. Getting that close in any match means they have already exceeded many expectations. South Africa's Southern Kings might turn out to be kings of the Super Rugby duds. Well done to Mark Hammett and co. The Sunwolves are the team of the week - never thought I'd be writing those words this season.

Sam Burgess

The England rugby World Cup flop is one of the most influential league players in memory. Okay, so South Sydney's victims on the weekend were useless Newcastle. But the Rabbitohs were very impressive and Big Burgess was central to that. Souths won the premiership with Burgess leading the charge two years ago. Burgess and the Bunnies are back after a below-par 2015.

Jim Doyle

The Warriors chief executive fronted up to a Radio Sport interview, as he should. He's doing his bit to take the pressure off his under-siege team and coach and being pretty honest - or about as honest as a chief executive can be - along the way. Fact is, there wasn't much to celebrate for Warriors fans on Friday night. The attack was disjointed against Brisbane, and Shaun Johnson looked out of sync with his teammates. The scoreline wasn't too bad, and better than some might have predicted. But they never looked up to winning the second round game.

Tana Umaga

The Blues coach has form when it comes to criticising match officials. He didn't hold back a couple of years ago, with an extraordinary blast against Glen Jackson after a provincial game at Eden Park. But Umaga wisely held his tongue after the Blues were defeated by the Hurricanes. For my money, the officials' forward pass call to rule out a Blues try was bang on. Failing to nab Ardie Savea for a knock on before a Hurricanes try was more contentious, and probably wrong, but it was a close call in real time. Coaches' criticism of referees usually goes in one ear and out the other because it always comes from a biased, narrow perspective. Maybe Umaga learnt his lesson with the Jackson incident although only time will tell as he forges a career in the Super Rugby spotlight.